The Big Ten is a conference unlike any other, because on any given day, a team can be given a chance to shine and show off some amazing players who may not have gotten the spotlight yet. In a prime example, Minnesota men’s basketball is currently ranked 12th in the conference, but can still put on an offensive showcase if the time is right.
And unfortunately for Northwestern, that time was Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena, where Minnesota (13-13, 7-9 B1G) destroyed the ’Cats (6-20, 1-15 B1G) 83-57. Minnesota put on a shooting clinic, going 30-for-62 in field goal shooting and swishing 14 three pointers. The Gophers saw four players score double-digit totals and were led by sophomore center Daniel Oturu, who got a double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
“It's at a point in the season where you’ve got to be ready to play and compete at a high level,” said head coach Chris Collins after the game. “We have to be much better. We have a lot of work to do. We have to get to the practice floor, and we’ve got a couple of weeks to try to play some better basketball and try to finish on a high note.”
The ’Cats were led in their efforts by sophomore Pete Nance, who came off the bench to swish 11 points, and redshirt first-year Ryan Young, who scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds.
Like their games against Penn State and Maryland, the Wildcats got off to a rough start, allowing Minnesota to score 44 points in the first half, the most first-half points allowed by the team this season. The ’Cats couldn’t match the pace or the accuracy, and fell just as hard in the second half to lose by 26.
The biggest problem for the team was shooting accuracy. The ’Cats went 24-for-62 from the floor and a ghastly 3-for-18 from downtown, which doomed the team down the stretch as they couldn’t match the Gophers’ aforementioned 14 from downtown.
It wasn’t a total loss, as the Wildcats did show some life in places. Ryan Young showed his continuing development with six straight points to open the game for Northwestern, and the team shows no desire to quit now, regardless of losing 11 straight games.
“I don't think anybody feels sorry for us out there,” Young said after the game. “It's an easy hole to fall into, but that’s not something that we're going to do ... Something that I've done, and that a lot of us do, is just kind of relying on each other. It’s been a lot of struggles, but we're still family, and we still rely on each other and bounce off each other for that kind of energy.”
As the Wildcats regroup and recover, they now look ahead to the twilight of their season, starting with a game against Illinois on Thursday at home. The players will have a day off to recover, but Collins fully expects the team to come back ready to finish the fight on a high note:
“The thing that has really kept me going is just seeing them come back, and they really want to win. They're taking these losses hard. They really want to win. They want to be a good team. They want to figure it out,” Collins said.
“There's nothing we can do now about today. Today's over. We can come back to practice the next couple days, and we can try to be better, and we can try to figure out a way to beat Illinois on Thursday.”
Here’s to better days and chicken sandwiches.